The historic Corinthian Hall in Melrose Highlands won't be the new home for Absolutely Fabulous, as once planned, but another restaurant will open on the ground floor of the Franklin Street building: T'ahpas 529. (While Ab Fab's planned address was 523 Franklin St. and T'ahpas 529's is 529, hence the name, both numbers apply to the same building. An event and catering company, also called Corinthian Hall, resides on the second floor of the building and remains open.)
The T'ahpas 529 team is hoping to open in early or mid July, according to executive chef Erik Powers (previously sous chef at Grill 23 and Post 390), but there's much to be done first. The space is currently raw, but construction is slated to start in May, if all the permitting goes as planned. The restaurant will seat around 70 or 80 people, and there will be a full bar with a lounge area.
T'ahpas 529 will, of course, serve tapas. There will be traditional Spanish tapas but also small plates with a wider Mediterranean influence. Beyond small things, there will also be a few bigger entree-sized dishes; think a whole fried fish, traditional paella, and bone-in ribeyes. Powers is trying to source beef exclusively from Brandt Farms in California, like Grill 23 does. "Before I started in this group, I was working at Grill 23, and chef Jay Murray really opened my eyes to what great beef is and how much of a difference there is when it comes to how the cattle are raised," said Powers. "This beef is really just on a whole other level than the stuff you can buy at a supermarket, so I really think the people of Melrose will enjoy getting to try products as great as Brandt Farms beef outside the city."
As for the beverage side of things, expect a strong focus on Spanish and South American wines, along with some local microbrews.
The owners of T'ahpas 529, Lorenzo and Emily Tenreiro, are also behind Coffee Tea and Me, a nearly five-year-old cafe at 421 Main St. in Melrose, as well as La Qchara, a small Central and South American restaurant across from the T'ahpas 529 space (506 Franklin St.) Once the new restaurant opens, Powers will be overseeing the food at all three spots.
Lorenzo is originally from Venezuela, hence the Latin American influence at his venues, and Emily comes from Cape Cod. They met in New York before ending up in Melrose. They opened Coffee Tea and Me in 2011 and discovered that their empanadas were a hit with their customers, ultimately leading to the opening of La Qchara.
Powers' resume covers a lot of Boston ground, starting with two stints at Ashmont Grill, beginning as cook and ending as sous chef. He's also worked at Eastern Standard and No. 9 Park under Patrick Campbell. "I really attribute my plating style and technique to chef Patrick; he really is a great chef," said Powers. And then he worked his way through the Himmel Hospitality Group, from Harvest to Post 390 and Grill 23.
At T'ahpas 529, Powers is hoping to employee a few cooks from the non-profit Future Chefs, which works to prepare youth for jobs in the culinary field. The organization helped Powers get his start in Boston's restaurant scene when was 18, so he wants to show his support for founder Toni Elka, her staff, and the cause.
"I am really just super excited to be able to contribute to a rising food scene in Melrose," said Powers. "A lot of new restaurants are opening up all around the city, and the public is seeming to really enjoy all the new options. It almost reminds me of a mini Somerville with all the new young professionals moving into the area."